Should the book Huck Finn be taught in schools?Although the novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a classic, has been in trouble almost continuously since the day it was first published in...

Should the book Huck Finn be taught in schools?

Although the novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a classic, has been in trouble almost continuously since the day it was first published in America in 1885.  What are you're opinions on it?Try supporting both sides of the arguement.

Asked on by babifat16

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lmetcalf's profile pic

lmetcalf | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted on

I will add to the consensus of this thread and throw in another unqualified "yes" to the fact that it should be taught. The book itself and its subject is at that fabric of our American heritage, and the theme of the work is about our SHARED humanity, not our skin color; a lesson learned by a child. If there are concerns about the "n" word, then it is the teacher's responsibility to have a front-load conversation about text, context, and appropriate use of the word in regard to a discussion of the novel. I have had many black students in my career, many of whom had a hard time at the start of the novel, but all who persevered and appreciated Twain's intended message in the end.

larrygates's profile pic

larrygates | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

I also believe that the book should be taught, as it is a classic of American literature. I am frankly appalled at the political correct crowd who focus on its use of the "n" word as so offensive as to contaminate the entire work. I teach Uncle Tom's Cabin to my High School Juniors. In that book Harriet Beecher Stowe throws the N word around with abandon. I have heard no one suggest that it be banned. I think the time has come where we have become so obsessed with political correctness that we have lost sight of the greater purpose of education.

literaturenerd's profile pic

literaturenerd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

I would add that the text offers insight into the history of America, and that alone qualifies it as a book which should be taught. We cannot be blind to what has happened in the past. Novels such as this keep history alive for students and allows them to see how much America has changed.

e-martin's profile pic

e-martin | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

If we look at this novel as being problematic in its presentation/depiction of race, we enter a classic and somewhat intractable bind.

As a society we have largely agreed that race and skin color should not be regarded as a person's most prominent traits. Color should not divide us. Race should not divide us and certainly should not determine a person's potential to find work and to succeed in America.

This has come to mean that we should seek a "color blindness".

How do we do that?  Do we do it by not talking about color or do we do it by continuing to talk about color, as we have for the last 20 years, by emphasizing the equal value of all peoples in a moral-philosophical kind of way.

To continue to talk about color means that we will continue to see it. To ignore it means we cease to teach equality.

It would seem that the path we choose in this dilemma would automatically decide for us if Huck Finn and Jim are going to be characters in the high school classroom.

bullgatortail's profile pic

bullgatortail | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

It is absolutely an essential novel and one that should be taught at some point during a child's educational upbringing. As one of the previous posts mentioned, the use of the "N" word should not stand in the way of it being taught. Twain's story offers so many other positive aspects: irony, authentic colloquial language, imaginative characterizations, and great storytelling.

litteacher8's profile pic

litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

This is one of the most important books in American literature, so yes it should be taught.  Hemmingway, an important American author in his own right, said that all American literature begins with Huck Finn.  This is not to say that the book does not have flaws.  It does, but it also is an important step in our literary history.

enotechris's profile pic

enotechris | College Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

Posted on

What's fascinated me about Huck Finn is that it's been banned from American schools twice -- the first time, shortly after it was published in the 1880's, because the moralists of the day objected to a white boy fraternizing with a black man.  The second time it's been banned has been by the politically correct crowd of our own times who object to the word "nigger."

Interesting how the mores change with the times.  Of course it should be taught, in its unabridged original language.  Those who can truly appreciate the work will appreciate how far we've progressed, and see it as the historical representation that it is.

vangoghfan's profile pic

vangoghfan | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

I support teaching the book. It is an American classic and is actually one of the most powerful indictments of racism and slavery that I have ever read. Many people fail to appreciate the irony of Twain's writing and thus miss the chance to read a book that is highly effective on many different levels.

Having said this (and since you asked for arguments pro and con), I will simply say that I sympathize with teachers who worry that their intentions will be misconstrued if they try to teach the book. It's easy to say they shouldn't be concerned about such things. It's much harder to walk a mile in their shoes.


pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

Why not?  So it uses the word "nigger" a lot.  It would be pretty strange if a book set in that time and place did not.  I'm not qualified to say whether it is a classic book, but people who know more than me think so, which means it is probably worth teaching for its literary value.  Assuming it is, I don't see why its use of what we now think of as racist language is a big deal.  People need to be able to deal with the fact that America has a racist past and not freak out when confronted with the evidence of that past.

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